Concept

Language immersion

Summary
Language immersion, or simply immersion, is a technique used in bilingual language education in which two languages are used for instruction in a variety of topics, including math, science, or social studies. The languages used for instruction are referred to as the L1 and the L2 for each student, with L1 being the student's native language and L2 being the second language to be acquired through immersion programs and techniques. There are different types of language immersion that depend on the age of the students, the classtime spent in L2, the subjects that are taught, and the level of participation by the speakers of L1. Although programs differ by country and context, most language immersion programs have the overall goal of promoting bilingualism between the two different sets of language-speakers. In many cases, biculturalism is also a goal for speakers of the majority language (the language spoken by the majority of the surrounding population) and the minority language (the language that is not the majority language). Research has shown that such forms of bilingual education provide students with overall greater language comprehension and production of the L2 in a native-like manner, especially greater exposure to other cultures and the preservation of languages, particularly heritage languages. Bilingual education has taken on a variety of different approaches outside of the traditional sink-or-swim model of full submersion in an L2 without assistance in the L1. According to the Center for Applied Linguistics, in 1971, there were only three immersion programs within the United States. As of 2011, there were 448 language immersion schools in the U.S., with the three main immersion languages of instruction being Spanish (45%), French (22%), and Mandarin (13%). The first French-language immersion program in Canada, with the target language being taught as an instructional language, started in Quebec in 1965. Since the majority language in Quebec is French, English-speaking parents wanted to ensure that their children could achieve a high level of French as well as English in Quebec.
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